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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 10: Give a hand to USC for their ascent

How high can Cal climb by beating the worst team in the conference?

NCAA Football: Arizona at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: You know why I’m here. I know why you’re here.

Nine of the most moderately gorgeous CGB writers have gotten together to evaluate the dozen Pac-12 teams by overall performance this year, performance this past week, and fan sentiment. For the last set of games, see below:

  • Utah defeated UC Los Angeles, 48–17
  • #12 Washington defeated Oregon, 38–3
  • #17 USC defeated #22 Arizona, 49–35
  • #25 Washington State defeated #21 Stanfurd, 24–21
  • California defeated Oregon State, 37–23
  • Arizona State defeated Colorado, 41–30

Nik Jam: There is a serious possibility that there could be 11 Pac-12 teams with at least six wins. (Poor Oregon State.) Would there be enough bowl bids for everyone? Starting to think 5–7 with a great APR won’t cut it.

With this kind of parity, it’s looking like there’s the USC-UW-WSU tier on top, OSU on the bottom, and 4–11 could really be anybody depending on “momentum”.

Nick Kranz: True, but I’d say that, for example, it would be surprising if both Colorado and Utah reached six wins, along with Cal/UCLA. Nine Pac-12 teams reaching bowl eligibility seems most likely, although that’s still two more teams than the conference is likely to have tie-ins to accommodate.

Piotr T Le: Pac-12 is weird; there is no logic in the grand circle of Pac-12 wins. Therefore, I would say that there are three distinct tiers here same way Nik Jam sees it. Within each tier, each team could beat another on any given Saturday. Heck, OSU even had a shot at upsetting Furd!

Ruey Yen: My current three tiers of Pac-12 teams are: UW, USC, WSU, and Arizona at the top. Then the big group of Stanford, ASU, Utah, Colorado, Cal, and Oregon. In the bottom two is UCLA and OSU.

Berkelium97: Ranking these teams objectively is becoming an increasingly Sisyphean task, as demonstrated by this helpful graphic shared by ESPN.

Leland Wong: Nooooo now we’re going to get sucked into the controversy that ESPN stole a fairly common concept from someone on Reddit.

The rankings

In the event of a tie, those teams are listed alphabetically. The parenthetical number next to each voter’s name is where they ranked that team.

1. Washington Huskies (8–1, 5–1 Pac-12; eight first-place votes) ↔

Last week: 1

Nik Jam (1): To win the North, they pretty much need to either beat Furd or hope the Bears pull off the upset at Big Game. They haven’t really had an impressive win yet, but hopefully that changes at the Farm on Friday. Still think they’re more complete than U$C though.

Leland Wong (2): Another dominant performance, but I won’t personally regard this one too highly since Oregon is in utter shambles right now.

Berkelium97 (1): I don’t want to put them at #1 because they haven’t defeated anyone of note, but I am still impressed they they have blown out everyone they’ve faced (except that bizarro ASU game).

Nick Kranz (1): They are going to grind up the Stanford Surrender Punters into sawdust. I can’t wait.

2. USC Trojans (8–2, 6–1 Pac-12; one outlying first-place vote) ↗

Last week: 3

Nik Jam (2): South title all but assured unless they completely collapse.

Leland Wong (1): Another week, another school with a big win clearly deserving of #1. The offense looked crisp—which is great and all, but the big news is that the defense found a way to (mostly) stop the back-to-back-to-back-to-back Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week in Arizona QB Khalil Tate.

Berkelium97 (2): If not for for that woeful loss to Notre Dame, I’d probably rank them at #1 this week. They have bounced back nicely from that loss, however.

Nick Kranz (2): I will 100% be rooting for USC to upset Washington and deny the Pac-12 a spot in the playoffs. And I expect USC to do just that, because the post–Pete Carroll Trojans are more about denying happiness to others than anything else.

3. Washington State Cougars (8–2, 5–2 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 4

Nik Jam (3): Luke Falk could have had a backbreaking pick-six, but overcame it and won anyway. Truly one of the all-time greats in Pac-12 history.

Berkelium97 (3): Thank you, Cougs, for doing the needful.

Nick Kranz (3): Honestly though how did Wazzu only win by three despite doubling Stanford’s total yards and not losing the turnover battle? I know us beggars can’t be choosers, but this should’ve been a blowout.

Leland Wong (3): Wazzu couldn’t get the run game going and let Stanfurd stay in the game for too long, but they’re still in good place with respect to the conference overall and watched Falk make Pac-12 history. Not too shabby.

4. Arizona Wildcats (6–3, 4–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 2

Nik Jam (4): Nearly had a big-time comeback in Los Angeles. Khalil Tate made some poor fourth-quarter interceptions, as young quarterbacks sometimes do, to prevent an upset of the Trojans (That sounds familiar…)

Leland Wong (4): The Wildcats are in a tough position losing a game that wasn’t—but also was—as close as the final score indicates. Still, they’re a dangerous team and there’s no team in the conference that doesn’t recognize that.

Berkelium97 (4): Last week, I said that Arizona was worthy of the #1 spot because their defense was questionable, but it wasn’t a big problem because Khalil Tate never has bad days. Well, he finally had a bad day. USC sealed the edges, played its safeties in the box, and dared Tate to beat them through the air. Yes, the same Tate who was averaging 12 yards per pass. Except for a second-half flurry, he was generally unable to hit his receivers in their one-on-one matchups, which doomed the Wildcats. Too bad.

Nick Kranz (4): Before Saturday I wasn’t sure if ANYBODY had a defense to contain Tate. I’ll now revise and say that USC and Washington probably have the talent to get the job done. Arizona will probably now settle for an 8–4 regular season and a trip to the Holiday Bowl.

Ruey Yen (4): I was rooting for them over USC, but it was not meant to be. At least now the U of A fans and RichRod do not have to regret not starting Khalil Tate from the beginning of the season.

5. Stanford Cardinal (6–3, 5–2 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 5

Nik Jam (5): They’ll be home underdogs against Washington and Notre Dame. 6–6 isn’t a far off possibility—and that would mean Cal won, so… make it happen!

Berkelium97 (5): Man, that passing game is downright ugly.

Nick Kranz (5): Bless David Shaw for punting away Stanford’s last decent chance to win the game. I can’t wait for Wilcox to have comparable talent.

Ruey Yen (5): Bryce Love does not appear to be 100%. That combines with Shaw’s super conservative play calling does not bode well for the Furdies in the final three weeks of their season: a gauntlet of U-Dub, the Big Game, and Notre Dame.

Leland Wong (6): The Furdies stay in pretty good position because a three-point loss to the Cougars isn’t too shameful. Still, they dropped one spot because the offense was so putrid and because their wins this year haven’t been too impressive.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (5–4, 4–2 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 6

Nik Jam (6): Their campaign would have been sunken with a home loss to the Buffs; now they just need to beat Oregon State to go bowling. (Their chances of getting to six are higher than Cal’s, so I’m swapping the two… I had Cal 6th at first.)

Berkelium97 (6): The Pac-12’s random number generator strikes again! Down 27–17 at the start of the 4th quarter, they ran wild on the Buff defense and somehow ended up winning 41–30.

Nick Kranz (6): ASU is gonna lose next week in Los Angeles for no particular reason, right?

Leland Wong (5): I’m not super-enthusiastic about the Sun Devils this week because they didn’t have the shiniest of wins, but at least they did win.

7. Utah Utes (5–4, 2–4 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 11

Nik Jam (9): Who the heck knows what would have happened if Utah got that two-point conversion to beat USC… could be near the top of the Pac.

Berkelium97 (8): I expected them to run all over the Bruins. I did not expect four passing TDs and over 10 yards per attempt. Where was this offense the last two weeks?

Nick Kranz (7): Utah fans are no doubt wondering how their season might’ve turned out had QB Tyler Huntley stayed healthy all season rather than missing two games that they lost by a combined four points, before throwing four interceptions in perhaps a rusty return game.

Ruey Yen (7): They are the biggest riser this week for me. Sure, beating a dysfunctional UCLA team should not mean that much, but the Utes looked quite good doing so.

Leland Wong (7): Suddenly the Utah offense looks unstoppable for a solid Pac-12 South win. It’s great for them to snap a four-game losing streak, but they can’t go too high up the rankings with said four losses.

8. California Golden Bears (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 9

Nik Jam (7): Matching last season’s win totals is something very few people outside of Berkeley expected, but at this point it would be disappointing if they failed to get a win against their California rivals and ended their season on Black Friday.

Berkelium97 (7): When you go 60 minutes without a single punt, you’re typically having a pretty good day.

Nick Kranz (8): Objectively and subjectively, the success of the 2017 season comes down to Cal’s performances against in-state rivals.

Piotr T Le (9): Going with no punts is impressive until we realize that there was one fumble and one turnover on downs involved. Furthermore, I just can’t in good faith put us above Colorado (a team that trashed us two weeks ago) nor Oregon (who with the same personnel did the same to us many weeks ago). We ain’t that good relative to Pac-12, but we might still get a bowl since UCLA seems to be falling apart bit by bit, piece by piece.

Leland Wong (8): I’m tempted to largely discredit Cal’s performance here considering the opposition. But on second thought, Oregon State’s previous two losses—to Colorado and Stanfurd—came at a combined four points, so Cal deserves some acknowledgement for taking care of business.

9. Colorado Buffaloes (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 8

Nik Jam (10): That win over Cal seems to have given them more confidence. They should have had the ASU game. Their best bet at a sixth win appears to be Utah—but it is a road game.

Berkelium97 (9): They have given up 794 rushing yards to the Arizona schools.

Leland Wong (9): I hesitate to place Colorado so low because they were in this game—until they were outscored 24–3 in the fourth quarter.

10. Oregon Ducks (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 7

Nik Jam (8): Not much reason to think they would be competitive against Washington. They’ll be fine.

Leland Wong (11): RB Royce Freeman tried to put the team on his back, but you can’t beat a team like Washington while being so one-dimensional. The Ducks fall a little farther because they were so soundly beaten by their archrival and the most vile school in the nation.

Berkelium97 (10): Remember when they had a lead after the first quarter? Neither does anyone else.

Nick Kranz (9): Obviously Oregon’s offensive performances don’t mean much without a QB, but I’m curious if Duck fans aren’t disappointed that Willie Taggart’s defense didn’t perform better against the Huskies?

Ruey Yen (10): Given the parity of the bottom two-thirds of the Pac, the Ducks fell the most in my ranking. I know that the Huskies have a great defense, but the putrid offensive output is my reason for dropping the Ducks by four spots.

11. UCLA Bruins (4–5, 2–4 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 10

Nik Jam (11): Will almost certainly have to beat ASU at home to stay alive in bowl competition… otherwise they will probably have their postseason hopes eliminated in the Victory Bell game. That will be an interesting one to watch.

Berkelium97 (11): Their best chance of preventing the bowl-nullifying four-game losing streak turned out very, very poorly.

Nick Kranz (11): I get that UCLA has injury issues, but allowing 500 yards of offense to Utah?! Meanwhile, UCLA still has a top-20 composite recruiting class. What a waste.

Piotr T Le (11): Josh Rosen will probably sit out the rest of the season and not have his body, mind, and NFL prospects further shattered by the tragic comedy of errors that is the UCLA offensive line.

Leland Wong (10): Profoundly confuddled by how UC L.A. does so little with their talent. The Bruins were hurting without Rosen and their offense was ineffective, but one star player doesn’t save the team (which explains why they still did so poorly with him).

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–8, 0–6 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Nik Jam (12): They have a home game against Arizona State on November 18. Probably their best bet at not going 0-fer the conference season… maybe Oregon pending their health issues.

Nick Kranz (12): Losing decisively to Cal pretty much condemns OSU to the title of “worst Power 5 team in the nation (non-Kansas division)”.

Leland Wong (12): A non-close loss guarantees Oregon State stays grounded in the basement. Hopefully interim head coach Cory Hall took a minute to visit himself after the loss.

The data

Here’s how we voted this week. Check out the idiot who has USC at #1.

Table 1. Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 10

rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Ruey
rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Ruey
1 Wash Wash Wash USC Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash
4 ASU Arizona WSU Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Stanfurd Arizona
5 Arizona Stanfurd ASU ASU Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Arizona Stanfurd
6 Cal ASU Stanfurd Stanfurd ASU ASU ASU ASU ASU
7 Utah Cal Utah Utah Utah Cal Colorado Utah Utah
8 Stanfurd Utah Colorado Cal Cal Oregon Oregon Oregon Colorado
9 Colorado Colorado Cal Colorado Oregon Utah Cal Colorado Cal
10 UC L.A. Oregon Oregon UC L.A. Colorado Colorado Utah Cal Oregon
11 Oregon UC L.A. UC L.A. Oregon UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A.

By aggregating the numerical responses for each time, we find the average score for each of them; these average scores gave rise to the overall rankings shown above. We’ll chart out the precise, mathematical averages in Figure 1; the error bars will represent one standard deviation, which visualizes if we were in agreement for a team (small error bars) or if we had disparate views (large error bars). I think the larger error bars in the approximate middle of the conference (#5 Stanfurd–#10 Oregon have standard deviations of 0.726–1.269 vs. 0.000–0.601 for the other teams) is quantitative proof to back up our claims that the teams in this regime are so difficult to differentiate.

Figure 1. Taller to shorter.

Taking a look at the precise rankings (Fig. 1 or 2), we can start to see another tier pattern. The conference is split right down the middle with Washington, USC, WSU, Arizona, Stanfurd, and ASU (!?) in the top half and Utah, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, UC Los Angeles, and OSU in the bottom half. Personally, I had the Sun Devils at #5, but I’m still stunned to see them so high. I’m not sure how they managed to distinguish themselves so much when they’re just one of five 5-win teams. Speaking of the other five-win teams, you could argue that they’re in a clear subclass within the bottom-half of the conference.

But where are my manners? How could I talk to you about Figure 2 without a proper introduction? Figure 2 is what you get when you take these precise rankings and graph them weekly over the course of 2017. In this view, we see the closest the Huskies have ever gotten to a unanimous clawhold on first place, thanks to my vote. On the flip side, Oregon State collected all of our 12th-place votes for the first time since Week 7.

Figure 2. The tiers make this 6–6, which means the Pac-12 could go bowling.

But we can take Figure 2 and get those lines flatter than shoving cardboard down our pants. Here, we see four teams holding steady since last week.

Figure 3. Words

Although this is not the first week with four stationary teams, this was a quiet week overall, resulting in a tie for the least-Mad week of the season.

Figure 4. Table

Cal’s on bye this upcoming week, but there will still be some interesting games that will affect our standings here. Hope to see you back next week—or you can go ahead and leave me like everything else I’ve ever loved.


Which team is #1 in your Power Ranking?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    Washington, like 8/9 CGBears voted
    (105 votes)
  • 35%
    USC, for beating a once-unstoppable Top-25 team
    (72 votes)
  • 9%
    Cal, because I’m a homer who can’t let this go
    (20 votes)
  • 3%
    Other, because I said so
    (8 votes)
205 votes total Vote Now